It's Only Human!
I was in school, the class I dreaded most was my eighth grade art class.
The teacher put down my every attempt at completing an assignment. I
simply couldn’t produce art the way she wanted it. Luckily for me, I had
already proven myself in other creative areas besides the visual arts –
such as writing and dance. Yet, that art teacher was successful in
convincing me that I had no talent whatsoever for painting, drawing, or
anything remotely related to them. Imagine my surprise when years later, I
published my nature photography and became – of all things – a
volunteer art teacher!
Unfortunately, my story is all too familiar to so many of the people who
come through my workshops and practice. Even more unfortunately, the vast
majority of people were so discouraged in childhood that they cut off the
creative impulse in most every area of their lives. Their teachers,
parents, or classmates convinced them they had no talent, and so, they
gave up. The pain of failure was simply too great.
Taking risks is the hallmark of great art, so why do we become so locked
into our idea of what is acceptable? When we see finished art that we
admire, we tend to forget that most great works of art are the result of
years of work, and all writers rewrite and rewrite until they're blue in
the face. Besides that, few works of art become universally recognized as
great. Most artists experience widely divergent opinions about the quality
of their work. There is no definitive opinion about what is good and what
More importantly, why have we forgotten that creativity is an experience,
not a result? Let’s consider why we express creativity in the first
place. Is it to become the next Picasso or Baryshnikov? Or is it for
enjoyment and pleasure? Even Picasso and Baryshnikov didn't set out in the
beginning to be “Picasso” and “Baryshnikov!” Picasso began to
paint, and Baryshnikov began to dance because they loved doing it! And,
there is only one Picasso and only one Baryshnikov. But, there is also
only one YOU!
Making art is not just for professionals! To be creative is to be human.
Everything we have at our disposal in the modern world – from our
computers to our post-its – are the result of someone’s creative
expression and willingness to take a risk. Even so, for creativity to
flower and feel free of encumbrance, it needs to be about the joyful
moments spent creating, not just about what we have to show for those
In order to break loose from these chains of self-doubt, we must be
willing to let go of all preconceived ideas of what something “should”
be, “should” look like, “should” sound like. We even need to let
go of the need for our creative expression to be “good” – whatever
To that end, here’s what I suggest. Choose some creative outlet that you
find fun to do or believe you would have fun doing… not just to “have
done.” In other words, pick something that sounds fun even if you trash
your work afterward. Then, start projects, and DON'T FINISH them. That's
right. You heard me. Don't finish them! This may make you crazy at first,
but it's a great way to break the habit of judging your finished product
too harshly and too quickly. If, on the other hand, your habit is to judge
yourself for NOT finishing projects, then by all means, finish!
Whatever pattern you need to break, try to make it about the pleasure and
not about the outcome. All the innovation and spark is sapped from
creative flow when you demand everything you make be great. But, if you
MUST stay somewhat connected to the result, bear in mind that even your
worst efforts could reap surprising results! A very successful songwriter
once told me that she wrote an absolutely terrible song, only to find that
the melody and a couple of lines from it sparked a song that eventually
Therefore, I would urge you to curb your perfectionism (NOT your
enthusiasm!) Perfectionism is the leading killer of artistic expression
(and I don’t need a medical study to tell me that.) Relax a little, and
bring back your childlike nature when you create. Fingerpaint. Dance silly
on purpose. Find a toddler to make art with, and learn from his or her
example. Children instinctively know how to give over to the joy of
art-making – until someone teaches them otherwise! Let your creation be
whatever it wants to be. See if it can lead you rather than the other way
around. Let your unconscious come through, and let the expression of your
Self be beautiful regardless of how it compares to anything else. After
all, it's yours, and no one but you could create it!
Votaw is a Hypnotherapist and Transformational Counselor certified by
Dick Sutphen and in private practice in New York since 1988. She has
taught the "Discovering Your Life Purpose" course for the
Learning Annex and the Seminar Center in New York and California, as well
as The Creative Impulse workshop and the Creating the Life You Want
course. Her meditation CD's (including one titled "The Creative
Impulse") are available on her website or from CDBaby.com,
Byregion.net, and Tower Records' website.
Melanie has appeared on Manhattan Neighborhood Network's Woman of the Week
television program and Sony Worldwide Radio Network's radio program,
"The Edge of Reality." She has lectured on creativity for the
Mensa Society in Los Angeles and at several New Life Expos.
The author of five books, Melanie is an extensively published poet,
fiction writer, nature photographer, actress, singer, and dancer. For more
information, see her websites at: http://www.MelanieVotaw.com,